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Girl in a Coma: This Charming Band
By Tamara Palmer
Jun 3, 2009

Morrissey and his legendary former band The Smiths continue to have a far-reaching impact on music and style, reaching artists and fans across international and genre boundaries alike. Some, such as San Antonio-based rock trio Girl in a Coma (sisters Nina and Phanie Diaz and Jenn Alva), who are second-gen fans, have paid the ultimate homage by naming their group after one of his songs - in this case, 1987's "Girlfriend in a Coma."

With a name like that, it's not a total surprise that this band was eventually able to meet Morrissey, but it's fairly remarkable that these rockers were hand-picked to tour with him. But that's not where the life of this charming band ends. Before that monumental moment happened, they had already been discovered by another living legend: Joan Jett, who signed the ladies to her own Blackheart Records and has released two of their albums, Both Before I'm Gone and the newest Trio B.C.

In an interview with SG, GIAC lead singer Nina Diaz, 21, talks about the band's multiple brushes with greatness, and how they've grown along the way.

TP:Joan Jett and her manager/producer Kenny Laguna produced two of the songs on Trio B.C. - do you feel like they were able to help you bring out a different side of your talent that you hadn't seen before?

ND:It was a great experience, and I think the songs came out well. I think they came out exactly how they should have at the time.

TP:When they told you that they wanted to sign you, everyone knows Joan Jett, but did you know about the Runaways or did you go back and listen to the band to learn about the music?

ND:I knew of the Runaways 'cause of Phanie. Everything Phanie listened to, I would kind of drop my ear into. We knew the Runaways and we definitely knew Joan Jett.

TP:How would you describe your growth on this album as compared to the first one?

ND:On the first record, I wrote the songs between 13-to-17, so there was kind of a lot of experiences and growing up going on. Now, on this album, two of the songs are older but the rest of them I wrote on the road. Now I'm 21, I'm able to actually go into the clubs and not have to wait outside. Before, when I had to wait outside, I'd just suffocate myself in the van and start working on stuff to show the girls. I'm proud of the writing, I think it's a change from Both Before I'm Gone.

TP:There are two major differences you're talking about, the age difference in the songs and also writing on the road from the perspective of someone who has "made it," so to speak. You didn't have a deal before and didn't necessarily know you would, so there's a lot of change, a lot of growth.

ND:Yeah, and when I was writing, a part of me was thinking that everybody has to like it now. And also that people know a bit about [me] now, and that sort of messed me up a little bit. But I had to just let all that go and say to myself that I've been doing this since I was 13. And when you let go, it's amazing what can happen.

TP:As a writer, you can second-guess yourself to the point of not writing anything!

ND:It's a horrible, horrible feeling. You want to rip your hair off and scream!

TP:I can see how that would be a pressure to think about how people like what you've already done, and you want to continue to please them.

ND:Yeah, well, people go through different phases of what they listen to, so you can't always get everybody. We are changing, and I hope people will continue to grow with us.

TP:Your videos are great and really unexpected. How did you manage to get [legendary transgender performer] Amanda Lepore in the "Road to Home" video?

ND:That's actually my favorite video out of all of the videos that we made. Amanda is beautiful and moving and it's so cool that she did the video. It was a really quick process and everyone was working together as a team. I was really happy about that.

TP:Whose idea was it?

ND:I have a fascination with transvestites and transgenders. I like the idea of it; it's beautiful to me.

TP:What was Amanda like?

ND:It was really last minute. We contacted her three days before the shoot and she said yes, she would do it. And she did a great job!

TP:You've played some gigs with Morrissey, and to be a band named after a Smiths song, that's got to be incredible. How did this happen?

ND:We were fans of the Smiths and Morrissey and we wanted to pay homage to them and call ourselves Girl in a Coma, but we never thought we'd ever get even close to seeing the guy. One of our past managers was friends with Boz Boorer, who is a guitarist with Morrissey. He listened to some of our cheap little demos and said, "Come to London, I'll make a demo for you guys." I dropped out of school my junior year, got my GED, and went to London. As soon as we landed from the plane, we were recording our Boz Boorer session. So then we toured on it and toured on it, and knew then that Morrissey knows of it because Boz showed him, like, "Hey, Morrissey, check this out. It's a band called Girl in a Coma!"

Then, when Morrissey happened to need an opening act in New York, we were there. We cancelled our show - hey, we're opening up for Morrissey, no problem! After that, they asked us to continue on the tour and go overseas and we accepted everything with open arms.

TP:Did you have much personal interaction with him?

ND:Yeah, he would pass by here and there. We would get really nervous, like, there's Morrissey! Sometimes I'd actually turn my face to the wall, it was kind of really funny. On the last show in Paris, he came into the room. We gave him a little gift and a thank you card and he brought champagne and sat down for a moment and had a conversation with us. I thought he was just going to drop it off, but he sat down and it was really cool.

TP:There's so much legend about him that some of us forget sometimes that he's actually just a guy, you know?

ND:Yeah, his fans are wonderful but some of them kind of cross the line a little bit. It's expected. But he's an amazing, awesome person.

TP:I'm one of the only people I know who actually got to see the Smiths in concerts.

ND:Really? Wow!

TP:Yeah, that shows my age, but it was one of my first shows ever, the year before they broke up.

ND:Oh wow! Congratulations on that!

TP:He's someone I would actually be frightened to interview, because I was always such a big fan. It's kind of like not wanting to know what Santa Claus is really like.

ND:Yeah! I thought I never really wanted to meet him because I didn't want the idea that I had of him to be different. But it was better than I could have ever expected. It was wonderful.